An introduction to some of today’s leading blockchain games offering play-to-earn functionality
With the continued development of blockchain technology and nonfungible tokens, GameFi is rapidly evolving out of the proof-of-concept phase and into prime time. While the earliest blockchain games struggled to attract significant user bases, scaling solutions for popular Layer-1 blockchains and dedicated high-performance networks are rapidly improving the user experience — to the point where mainstream designers and studios are noticing the potential of play-to-earn gaming.
The earliest blockchain games left a lot to be desired on the gameplay front. However, recent efforts are increasingly sophisticated and, ultimately, more rewarding — both in a financial and entertainment sense.
Each of the GameFi titles detailed below is available to play right now and offers innovative ways to monetize time spent in-game. From concepts borrowed from decentralized finance to asset ownership via NFTs, play-to-earn dynamics are becoming increasingly creative — and provide new opportunities for gamers and developers alike.
Table of contents
Nine Chronicles is a free-to-play and decentralized fantasy role-playing game created by open-source gaming project Planetarium. The plot revolves around nine distant worlds torn apart by warring gods. With the assistance of a half-cat, half-human sidekick, players are tasked with helping the goddess Freya return peace to each of the worlds.
Gameplay sees players quest through dungeons while collecting resources, which may be used to craft rare and potentially valuable items. Items are tradeable on the game’s secondary marketplace for Nine Chronicles’ native currency, NCG. There is also a battle mode in which players can test their might against each other.
Unlike many earlier blockchain games, Planetarium set out to make Nine Chronicles truly decentralized. As such, the game has no central servers and the players themselves host all of the content via the Libplanet blockchain-gaming engine.
This, along with various community governance mechanisms, extends true ownership of the worlds and all their assets to the players themselves — the idea being that, even if Planetarium were to cease support for Nine Chronicles, the game would still exist as long as players themselves hosted it. Additionally, all Nine Chronicles’ code is open-source, meaning that gamers can fork their own projects from the software as they please.
What makes Nine Chronicles GameFi?
- Players are incentivized to run a full node and support the game’s on-chain features with rewards in the cryptocurrency NCG, Nine Chronicles’ in-game currency. It can be wrapped to create the ERC-20 token WNCG, which can be exchanged for other currencies at exchanges like OKX or used as collateral in DeFi applications.
- Combining collected resources creates more powerful, rarer items. Players can then sell them on the Nine Chronicles marketplace — effectively monetizing their time spent in the game.
- Victory in the Arena battle mode earns NGC.
Axie Infinity is a Pokémon-inspired game in which players collect, trade, battle and breed digital creatures known as Axies. The title was created in 2018 by GameFi startup Sky Mavis and, in August 2021, became the first blockchain game to surpass $2 billion in total in-game asset sales.
Like other play-to-earn titles, many of Axie Infinity’s in-game items are represented by NFTs. The gamer must first acquire a team of at least three Axies from the marketplace to start playing. Axies each have different skill sets and attributes, and they are priced in accordance with these variables. Players can acquire additional Axies through the marketplace or breeding.
There are two in-game currencies in Axie Infinity. The first is Axie Infinity Shards, an ERC-20 token used within the game’s governance system. AXS holders can participate in decision-making and also claim rewards through staking. The second Axie Infinity in-game currency is called Smooth Love Potion. SLP is awarded to players throughout the game for winning battles and completing daily quests. Breeding Axies requires SLP, which creates demand for the currency.
There are a few different game modes in Axie Infinity. Adventure mode is played against the computer and sees gamers take on various quests to level up their Axies and earn rewards. Players can also pit their Axies against others in the Arena battle mode. Both modes involve turn-based battles — and strategies arise from the formation in which your Axies enter the battle, the attacks each can perform, and the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses.
Axie Infinity was originally launched with its on-chain elements on the Ethereum blockchain. However, given Ethereum’s expensive transaction fees, Sky Mavis developed a sidechain implementation called Ronin to host the game. In April 2021, players were encouraged to migrate their Axie Infinity assets to the new sidechain, in order to benefit from faster transaction settlement times and reduced network costs.
What makes Axie Infinity GameFi?
- In-game asset ownership and trading are enabled through NFTs.
- Daily quests, winning battles and progressing through Adventure mode reward players with assets that have value outside of the Axie Infinity world.
- Land — also represented by NFTs — can be traded and monetized by harvesting, mining or building on it.
Celestial is a space exploration role-playing game set across the multiple galaxies of an expansive meta-universe and built using the Unity Engine. At the time of writing, the project is in its public beta. Thus, some of the features outlined here and in its white paper are still in development.
Initially, players can connect to the game via the OKC, Ethereum and BSV networks. Each network represents a different galaxy, and travel between them requires the use of galaxy gateways. There are also plans to introduce additional networks and create a dedicated GameFi blockchain to act as a relay chain between those supported blockchains.
Within each galaxy are clusters, and within each cluster are planets. Gamers — known as commanders — can explore the universe, mine resources, battle other players and colonize land parcels on planets. Like many other GameFi titles, most of Celestial’s in-game items are represented by tradable and upgradable NFTs. Resources and items give commanders and their ships different strengths and abilities — making some equipment more sought after on the title’s dedicated automated market maker-style, decentralized resource exchange.
In addition to its various play-to-earn functions, Celestial encourages social interaction among players. Commanders can form federations, increasing their overall efficiency when completing actions in the game. The federations will be governed by way of decentralized autonomous organizations. The wider Celestial DAO connects these potentially warring factions and influences the future direction of game development using the project’s ERC-20 governance token, CELT. Creative commanders can also submit proposals to these DAOs to build just about anything, and the community votes on which to develop.
What makes Celestial GameFi?
- Tradable NFT items can be enhanced using resources harvested from Celestial, increasing their value and potential market price.
- Players can loan out their NFTs to other commanders, generating revenue in return.
- Successful governance proposals may finance teams to build new features for the Celestial meta-universe.
- Daily quests provide play-to-earn opportunities.
- The resource marketplace operates similarly to decentralized exchanges like Uniswap. Those providing liquidity to its pools — resources and supported cryptocurrencies — receive a share of the platform’s trading fees. The remaining revenue generated will fund the main DAO’s community treasury.
Crypto Gladiator is a play-to-earn idle fighting and land-conquest game based on a proprietary sidechain of the OKC network. The gameplay revolves around leveling up a team of fighters through combat. At the end of each bout, the winning combatants receive wearables and weapons, which power up their attributes when equipped. Characters and equipment can be tokenized and sold on NFT marketplaces that support OKC.
To get started, you need to recruit a crew. Your first few fighters are free but cannot be sold. Recruiting additional gladiators or upgrading existing team members requires spending Crypto Gladiator Diamonds, one of the game’s two native currencies. Players can purchase CGD on-chain using OKT or Crypto Gladiator Shards, which is awarded in-game via play-to-earn mechanisms — such as land occupation.
What makes Crypto Gladiator GameFi?
- In-game asset trading enables gamers to monetize their time spent playing.
- Land-occupation mode provides play-to-earn opportunities.
REVV Racing is an arcade-style blockchain racing game, which is part of Animoca Brands’ REVV Motorsport ecosystem.
In terms of gameplay, the title is fairly typical of the racer genre. However, the cars themselves are represented by NFTs on Ethereum-scaling network Polygon. As such, players take full ownership of their vehicles and can trade them on secondary markets.
To get started, drivers must first acquire a car. They can either buy a car at an NFT marketplace that supports Polygon or receive one as a reward for participating in various promotional events. Recent examples include a giveaway by the DeFi protocol SuperFarm.
REVV Racing regularly hosts tournaments, which follow a time-trial format. Drivers receive a limited number of free “tries” to compete in each tournament. After they have exhausted their free credits, attempts must be paid for using the title’s native currency, REVV. The funds generated from paid tries contribute to the tournament prize pools — which are often as much as $150,000. During the tournament period, drivers can pay for as many attempts as they like after using up their free tries.
Although REVV Racing is not exactly groundbreaking in its gameplay, the title features slick graphics for a blockchain game and plays like a true arcade racer. With its assets based on Polygon rather than the Ethereum mainnet, it is also more accessible — thanks to its low network fees.
What makes REVV Racing GameFi?
- Players receive prizes in REVV tokens for their performance during events.
- Promotions with DeFi protocols and other online games enable gamers to acquire cars by playing mobile games like Crazy Defense Heroes or interacting with partnered platforms like QuickSwap.
- Players can trade their cars for a profit on secondary NFT marketplaces.
GameFi: The next wave of blockchain innovation?
As public familiarity with cryptocurrency spreads and applications of blockchain technology become more varied, many are predicting blockchain gaming to be the missing piece of the mass-adoption puzzle. In many cases, gamers are already familiar with the concepts that underpin many GameFi titles — in-game economies and digital scarcity, for example.
Additionally, the online-gaming sector is rapidly expanding — with 2020 seeing 21.9% growth over the previous year, pushing its total annual revenue past $21 billion. Meanwhile, an estimated 932 million people worldwide enjoy video games online.
With the advent of higher-performance networks, sidechains and scaling solutions, the technology required to deliver the kind of AAA gaming experiences the traditional gaming market is now accustomed to is starting to fall into place. Releases scheduled for 2022, such as the Ethereum-based open-world role-playing game Illuvium, look set to narrow the gap between the most popular mainstream titles and the more niche blockchain gaming sector. Coupled with the exciting and potentially lucrative play-to-earn dynamics discussed in this article, it is not difficult to imagine users flocking to GameFi titles — and, by extension, the cryptocurrency industry — in the coming months and years.
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